Charges against T.J. Bell dropped
Criminal charges against T.J. Bell, a former deputy chief at the Lake Charles Police Department, have been dropped by the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office.
Todd S. Clemons and Adam Johnson, attorneys for Bell, at a news conference on Tuesday, said the action has “vindicated” their client.
Bell was fired in 2015 after allegations that he allowed a worker, Jeanine Blaney, to be paid for work she did not do.
State district court Judge Sharon Wilson overturned the decision and reinstated Bell. But the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed that decision and upheld his firing.
The state Supreme Court in 2017 affirmed the 3rd Circuit’s ruling.
Bell’s indictments were for public payroll fraud and malfeasance in office.
“These were two bogus charges,” Clemons said. “He has suffered and has had to pay extensive legal fees. Keep in mind that the same people who charged him are the people who have dropped the charges.”
District Attorney John DeRosier said the charges were dropped after his office discussed the matter with city of Lake Charles officials.
Asked why he thought the charges were dropped, Clemons said he believed that “the charges could not be proven so they had to drop them. They were just grasping at straws and today has been a long time coming.”
Recent hearings on the case had centered on defense attorneys asking prosecutors for evidence as well as them questioning whether a key witness, Blaney, had been promised anything in exchange for her cooperation. Motions were filed and ruled on and Bell’s trial was delayed several times.
Prosecutor Ross Murray, at one of the recent hearings, told Clemons that no materials existed from interviews with Blaney and that, to his knowledge, nothing had been promised to Blaney in exchange for her cooperation.
“This man never committed any crimes,” Clemons said, adding that Bell is ready to move forward with his life.
Johnson and Clemons said Bell is also pursuing civil litigation in connection with the previous charges and the loss of his job and that the civil matters could involve not only the City of Lake Charles but employees there as well.